Crime & Courts

Charlotte protesters plan rally before hearing for CMPD officer

A group of people protesting what they say is an unfair justice system plans to rally Thursday afternoon outside the Mecklenburg County Courthouse before a court hearing for a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer charged in the fatal shooting of a black man last year.

The protesters had scheduled a vigil and march from Marshall Park to the courthouse Thursday morning, but that plan was scrapped and replaced with the rally at 1 p.m.

About a half-dozen people who gathered Thursday morning said a prayer before leaving.

At 2 p.m. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall Kerrick is scheduled for a hearing. Kerrick is charged with voluntary manslaughter, accused of fatally shooting Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed black man, in September 2013.

On Wednesday night, about 50 people wearing mostly black and shouting, “No justice, no peace,” showed up at Marshall Park to protest, saying the criminal-justice system goes easy on police officers who shoot and kill blacks.

The Charlotte Blackout Rally was organized by young members of the Charlotte branch of the National Action Network.

Organizers also tried to gain momentum for a proposed Charlotte civil rights ordinance. The ordinance would limit profiling by police and restrict surveillance and data collection.

Activist Robert Dawkins said the march is a sign that a younger generation is taking notice of social issues.

“My parents had the civil rights movement, but there hasn’t been this galvanizing issue in most young people’s lifetime,” he said. “They’re seeing that it’s important to bring about social change – it’s their responsibility in society. It’s not just about going to school to get the house and the car. It’s about the responsibility to fight for human rights.”

City Manager Ron Carlee was among the speakers Wednesday in Marshall Park. He told the Observer he was invited by organizers.

“City leaders are listening to you,” Carlee told the crowd. “We’re taking into account the issues you’ve brought up. … We care about what you’re saying, and we care about these issues.”

Ferrell’s killing has been held up alongside the killings of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York as evidence of a criminal-justice system tilted in favor of police officers. The officers in the three killings are white.

Brown was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson on Aug. 9. On Nov. 24, a prosecutor announced that the grand jury had elected not to charge Wilson with a crime.

Several days later, a grand jury in New York City decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Garner. In July, Pantaleo used a banned chokehold to subdue Garner, who can be heard on a video recording repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.”

Observer staffers Steve Lyttle and Davie Hinshaw contributed.